David Staples: Does harsh internal criticism of Premier Kenney signal the beginning of his end? Hmm


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Maybe Peace River MLA Todd Loewen’s letter to Premier Kenney signals the beginning of the end of Kenney as UCP leader.

It’s a huge deal that for the first time, an elected member of Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives is calling for him to resign, right?

I’m not so sure.

It’s certainly going to take more than Loewen’s unfocused and poorly timed letter to convince me.

I say this even as provincial premiers don’t tend to last long in Alberta these days. Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Rachel Notley were all one and done in the big office.

One election win, then out the door.

Perhaps Notley can change that dynamic in the next election. That said, Kenney beat her once and, having closely watched the UCP in government for two years now, I don’t see any UCP MLA having a better shot than him in the next election.

There’s been a few signals and untold rumblings that some UCP MLAs dislike Kenney’s handling of the pandemic, not to mention the party’s weak standing in opinion polls, but Loewen’s letter is no rousing call to arms. It’s a laundry list of beefs unrelated to the most pressing issues of the day.


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Albertans are worried to the core of their beings about two things: COVID and lockdowns. Loewen fails to directly address either of them.

It’s as if he’s trying to stage the Boston Tea Party without any tea or even mention of tea.

His complaints?

First, that the government’s response to the Trudeau Liberals is seen as weak and ineffective, a jibe that will go over well with the right wing of the UCP, but will move the needle with few others in a time of public health crisis.

Second, that negotiations with Alberta’s physicians didn’t go well and neither did the government’s actions on coal mining in the eastern slopes, which is fair comment but are also major NDP talking points.

Finally, Loewen suggests Albertans have lost trust with the government, no longer give it the benefit of the doubt, and that Kenney does a poor job listening to his own caucus and acting on their concerns. Here Loewen would score a direct hit if he did not have a major credibility problem of his own, namely that his own COVID policy suggestions have entirely missed the mark in the past month.

Five weeks ago, Loewen and 15 other UCP MLAs signed a letter saying Kenney had it wrong in bringing in more lockdown restrictions to slow COVID spread. “We have heard from our constituents, and they want us to defend their livelihoods and freedoms,” they said.

On April 7, when they wrote this letter, there were 79 Albertans in ICU with COVID and 254 hospitalized. As of May 12, there were 169 in ICU and 737 in hospital.


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How many more sick and dying would there be if Kenney had listened to Loewen and his group?

These 16 UCP MLAs have done us all a public service by constantly pointing out the real and brutal harm of lockdown restrictions, but if they can’t see the need for restrictions when hospital systems are threatened, they have a major blind spot. It’s just as dangerous a blind spot as those who constantly cry out for more and greater restrictions without a thought to the harm they bring.

In his new letter, Loewen would have taken a consistent and principled stand if he now called for Kenney to quit because of the government’s COVID lockdown policy. But he fails to do so. Maybe Loewen isn’t so sure of his position on lockdowns today as he was in early April. I can only speculate, as he’s yet to return my call.

If Loewen can’t come up with better reasons, the “Axe Kenney” movement will go nowhere fast. As is it stands now, his letter comes across as internal bickering when we need our political leaders to focus on ending the outbreak, the lockdown so that Alberta can get its economy back on track.

The NDP have been quick to point out that UCP infighting just now amounts to a dangerous distraction.

As Notley put it, Kenney should be hard at work on pandemic-related issues and making sure that the Line 5 pipeline doesn’t get shut down in Michigan. “Instead, Jason Kenney and the UCP are too busy fighting each other to work on the critical issues facing families and businesses in Alberta right now.”

What should Kenney do? Either ignore Loewen or fire him, whatever is less of a distraction, then refocus on urgent matters.

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